The drive from Sedona to Flagstaff on the 89A is one of the prettiest scenic routes in Arizona and – in a state where the Grand Canyon sits – that is saying something. From the red rocks of Sedona up 2000 ft to the Oak Creek Vista, to the incredible-ness of the Grand Canyon then onto Las Vegas. It’s so worth it.
This scenic route takes you from Sedona to Flagstaff. The drive heads out through a forest of pines and ascends up to Oak Creek Canyon Vista. There are two must stops along the way.
INDIAN GARDENS OAK CREEK MARKET
3951 N. State Route 89A, outside of Sedona; (928) 282-7702
Like most of the haunts in AZ, outside it’s grungy and rough, but inside it offers Tate’s Cookies and two kinds of chai tea: one made locally and the other from somewhere else in AZ. The Garland family has owned this market for at least 100 years and they make their own cider and most of the baked goods. Make sure you stop here for a coffee. There is a Native American jewelry shop next door but we were there too early to check it out.
OAK CREEK CANYON VISTA
At the top of89A before Flagstaff, there’s a turn off to this vista. Don’t miss it. You’ve just twisted and turned your way up 2000 ft. Now stop and enjoy it. There are a few stalls selling Native American knick-knacks, hair accessories and jewelry. Buy from them as they are legitimate and approved by the US Forest Service.
On the way from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon, I would recommend continuing on 89 all the way up and then turning left on 64 before Cameron and going in the East Entrance. Try to make sure you do all of this before sunset as you want to be able to stop at everything along the way.
SUNSET CRATER VOLCANO & WUPATKI NATIONAL MONUMENTS
From Flagstaff, take US 89 north for 12 miles (19km), turn right at sign for Sunset Crater Volcano – Wupatki National Monuments
www.nps.gov/sucr/index.htm & www.nps.gov/wupa/index.htm
The Cypriot and I are goofballs – ok, I said it. We drove into the Sunset Crater Volcano (2 miles from the entrance) and thought we were going to see a crater, not a volcano, so we got back into the car and decided that it would be faster to go back to the highway and then drive into the Wupatki ruins from there – skipping the loop drive that connects the two. DO NOT DO THIS! As we headed into the Wupatki National Monument from the highway, a sign indicated that it was 13 miles ahead. The entire loop was only 23 miles! The beauty we almost missed…how silly were we? We had gone from piney forest to desert lunar just in a few miles. We had also missed out on the volcanic remains just a few feet beyond the entrance to the Crater. Jerks that we were – we ended up doing the whole loop in reverse. The Wuptaki Ruins are a wonder so make time for this and don’t be dorks like us.
THE GRAND CANYON
Coming into the G.C. by the East Entrance is like licking a Tootsie Pop. You get to enjoy a bunch of amazing views before heading to the real thing. They say it is also much less crowded than the South Rim entrance. It can save you hours. No one was at the East Rim when we were there.
NB: There are NO plastic bottles of anything sold at the G.D. or any National State Parks. Bring your own or buy one of their reusable water containers.
Start with the Little Colorado River Gorge, Desert View Watchtower, Navajo Point, Lipan Point, Moran Point, Grandview Point, Yaki Point (we didn’t stop here) and then find your way to your hotel. All too breathtaking to write about.
1 El Tovar Road, Grand Canyon, (928) 638-2631
This is really the place to be. We arranged our whole AZ trip because we had gotten two nights at the El Tovar. Online it was all booked but when I called and asked about Easter Week they said they had two nights free – so i took them then and there! A trip was born around that. So back to the hotel itself, it’s not about the comfort of the rooms or the view from your window – it’s about being in the center of everything. Our room was not beautiful or cushy but we were so happy to be there. You can walk everywhere, sit on the swings with an afternoon drink or have yourself an overpriced meal with a view. I have no complaints…it was perfect.
BRIGHT ANGEL TRAIL
Located on the South Rim, the trail begins just west of Bright Angel Lodge.
The Cypriot and I are not what you would call athletes. Still, we were at the Grand Canyon and we had to hike. I had bought hiking boots and those zipp-able pants/shorts combo, darn it, I was going to use them! Totally doable, we walked down about 1.5 miles and up again. They say to give yourself one hour down and double that to come back up. Never do more than you think you can. It took us 55 minutes down and 50 minutes up – we were so pleased with ourselves. This is not to say it is easy. There are no guard rails and it is pretty crowded. It is about half a NYC sidewalk in width, so not very wide. There is a loo at 1.5 miles down and that was our marker to go back up again. Be careful but do it!
HOPI HOUSE & GALLERY
Hopi House and Hopi House Gallery are located across the way from the El Tovar
This was the first shopping experience at the G. C. Built over 100 years ago, it was designed by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, also of the Desert View Watchtower and the Hermit’s Rest. Very Native American-centric with loads of interesting knick-knacks, jewelry, art, rugs, etc. to take home. We bought the chickens, but almost came home with the very “interestingly shaped” totem poles. They organize NA events as well.
BRIGHT ANGEL RESTAURANT & THE ARIZONA ROOM
These two eateries are next to the El Tovar. The Bright Angel is great for lunch. We toasted our three mile Grand Canyon trek with two cokes and a Club Sandwich here. The Arizona is perfect for a casual dinner. We had the ribs and they were great. As there is not much choice up at the Canyon, this two will do you right!
Our concierge booked this for us when we got to the Canyon but it is advisable to book before you get here as they are sold out really quickly. We were super lucky to get a 30 minute afternoon ride. There are several operators but Maverick is the most famous. Early morning and late afternoon are the times to go as the sun bounces off the canyon and the colors are incredible. You can see the Colorado River whitecaps in the photo above. I was scared to death and it was way too expensive but you’re there. Xanax is advisable about 30 minutes before!
It is hard to leave the Grand Canyon but the drive makes up for the sorrow of leaving.
Don’t be fooled by Williams. It’s the first town you get to when leaving the South Rim exit of the Canyon and looks a bit dodgy. There is a wonderful coffee shop, kitschy restaurants and a fun atmosphere. It is one of the original Route 66 towns and from here and that’s where we were headed. The famous Grand Canyon Railway originates here as well.
ROUTE 66 FROM CROCKTON ROAD TO KINGMAN
This is an absolute must. Unless you have a train to catch or you’re having a baby, there is no other route to take but this, especially if you have a convertible. Sometimes you are the only ones on the road. You can drop into Seligman and have a Root Beer float at the famed Delgadillo’s Snow Cap, experience the Grand Canyon Caverns and the Truxton Gas Station in your Chrysler Sebring (even though you ordered a Mustang – much to the Cypriot’s chagrin!).
IN & OUT BURGER – KINGMAN
1770 Beverly Ave., Kingman, AZ 86401: 1-800-786-1000
Beyond the horizon, I see the famous arrow beckoning us toward the best burger in the West: In & Out! I told the Cypriot that I would only stop for one burger and one burger only and there it was! We can eat now – thank goodness – as I was really hungry.
The dam is located 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas. Take US Highway 93 to Nevada State Route 172. The dam is on the Nevada-Arizona border.
A quick trip from Vegas, if you are in the hood, you should check it out. We did not have the patience to go on the tour as we had been driving for at least six hours…but we did have a walk around and it was well worth it. After seeing nature’s architecture for a week, it was a jolt to the system but its elegant Art Deco lines and the blue water eased us into the disneyland-esqueness of Vegas – our next stop.